Spider-Man 3 was already a hyped installment superhero fans were keeping a close eye on, but the hype train really went full steam with the latest announcement that Alfred Molina will return to the franchise as Doctor Octopus. It's quite a huge reveal, and arguably one that could be even more telling towards the plot and purpose of this upcoming movie than the news that the past cinematic Spider-Man actors will reprise their roles as well.
Obviously there are a variety of ways Alfred Molina could be re-introduced to the story, and he could be an alternate version of Doc Ock, similar to J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson featured at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. But I have a much crazier theory that I think is possible, and it would be something Marvel potentially could and want to pull off within its universe. My thinking is this Doc Ock is actually the same Doc Ock from the events of Spider-Man 2, and that Spider-Man 3 could possibly change a lot about the Spider-Man universe.
Doc Ock (And Potentially Others) Are From The Events Of Spider-Man 2
In this crazy theory, Doc Ock and potentially other characters from Spider-Man 2 are plucked from or visited in the midst of the events of that movie. The fact that Alfred Molina's character only becomes the villain during the film and dies at the end makes for a limited window in which his exact version could be snatched up and potentially sent to another world for some dastardly plot. Either that or this could be an Avengers: Endgame scenario where MCU Spidey and others visit the multiverse in the midst of Doc Ock's quest for revenge in Spider-Man 2.
We already know that time travel is possible in the Marvel universe, and while the logistics and details of the multiverse still have yet to be explained, I don't think it's a stretch to say anything is possible in the MCU. Therefore, I think it's certainly a possibility Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus could be the exact same one from Spider-Man 2, but what would be the reason for such madness?
Diverging Timelines And Re-Introducing Classic Spider-Man Cinematic Characters Within The MCU
I already mentioned the time travel aspect of Avengers: Endgame, which is important because it showed how time travel works in the MCU. In the hypothetical that the events of Spider-Man 2 are referenced or its characters are taken from straight from that story, we already know that the events of Sam Raimi's movie still happened. Anything that happened in the MCU's Spider-Man 3 would create a divergent timeline, allowing for these characters to have alternate paths or outcomes outside of how things played out in Spider-Man 2 and beyond.
This gives Marvel and Sony a unique opportunity to protect the original love and lore of the classic Spider-Man movies, while simultaneously present new opportunities for these characters to be used elsewhere. For example, if Doctor Octopus never puts New York in peril with his fusion reactor, that would change a lot about each character's timeline going forward. Otto Octavius would still be alive, MJ may never know Peter is Spider-Man or his true feelings towards her, and the world may have never seen Topher Grace play Venom.
Except we did, which is the beautiful part of the MCU's diverging timelines. There's a real opportunity here for Marvel and Sony to re-introduce beloved characters, while potentially opening the door for new and exciting arcs that aren't beholden to re-treading the stories they left behind in the past. As much as I'd love to see Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4, the logistics of making it happen are far more complicated than making a divergent Spider-Man narrative from another timeline.
Couldn't All That Be Done With Alternate Multiverse Versions Of The Character?
If all that sounds complicated compared to creating an alternate version of the character with the same actor, it is and it isn't. Sure, creating an alternate version removes some excess baggage while still providing the thrill of a star reprising their role, but there's also something lost in the process.
The advantage of bringing in a character from a divergent timeline is that there's a rich history and familiarity for audiences with quite simple rules. In the case of this hypothetical situation where Alfred Molina's Doc Ock is from Spider-Man 2, we already have a background regarding who he is and what he's about. Divergent timeline characters have the same past as their previously established counterparts, but as Loki showed, their fates splinter off past the point where their timeline is interfered with.
Some may argue this reality is too complicated for the layman moviegoer, but let's give the general audience some credit. Those who have kept up with the MCU have been trained and re-trained on the mechanics of how this universe works, so I really don't think characters from divergent timelines from past movies would really be that complicated. In fact, that's less complicated than some of the many things Fox did with X-Men during its run and other ways movies can bring back characters who have already died on screen.
Would Sony Actually Do This?
When it comes to the rules of the MCU, it's not really a question of whether Marvel Studios could make it happen. Sony is also a major player in this character licensing marriage, and we've seen instances in the past where the two butt heads over how to handle Tom Holland's Spidey. Sony also retains the rights to all these other Spider-Man characters and has its own plans for a universe that may not necessarily coincide or integrate with the MCU.
Sony would absolutely benefit from having characters from divergent timelines they could revisit, but in no way is the studio beholden to the rules of the MCU. Basically, my theory may be right or wrong, but outside of the fact that Marvel's Kevin Feige is involved in the development of Spider-Man 3, we have no real reason to believe Sony plans on upholding any established MCU rules of time travel or the multiverse outside of the one it introduced in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. I'd like to remain optimistic, however, and believe Sony wants to continue association with the MCU, and that this theory is still very much on the table for Spider-Man 3.
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